United Kingdom
This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Covid-19 Australia: Victoria's controversial pandemic bill passes bringing in sweeping changes

Victorians can be jailed for two years and fined $45,250 for breaching public health orders under premier Daniel Andrew's controversial pandemic bill.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill passed the upper house by a thin margin of 20 votes to 18 on Thursday.

It comes after weeks of bitter debate and public outrage that prompted several mass protests in Melbourne.

The bill grants sweeping new powers to the premier and introduces heavy penalties and jail time for Victorians and businesses.

Victorians can be jailed for two years and fined $45,250 for breaching public health orders after premier Daniel Andrew's controversial pandemic bill was passed

The bill was passed after weeks of bitter debate and public outrage that prompted several mass protests in Melbourne

Victorian ombudsman Deborah Glass said on Friday the changes included more transparency and accountability

While it may be a victory for Mr Andrews, the premier was forced to make several amendments to the bill in order to gain the support from politicians.

Victorian ombudsman Deborah Glass said on Friday the changes included more transparency and accountability.

'What we've seen in this legislation now are some really significant amendments that will deliver, I think, that necessary independence to the whole process,' she told the Today Show. 

'There is much more accountability now in some very important respects. 

'I think the community can have a lot more confidence that there are checks on power that perhaps weren't there before.'

The premier and health minister - rather than the chief health officer - will now have the power to declare a pandemic.

They will also enforce restrictions during a health crisis when Victoria's state of emergency laws expire in two weeks. 

The premier can declare a health emergency and lockdown in the state in three-month blocks for as long as he likes.

The original legislation would also have seen a range of even more unprecedented powers handed to the premier and health minister Martin Foley.

The bill grants sweeping new powers to the premier and introduces heavy penalties and jail time for Victorians and businesses

Hundreds of angry Victorians turned-up to show their displeasure at the Andrews Government in Melbourne by chanting 'Kill the Bill' (pictured)

But harsher financial penalties for breaching public orders were cut in half and the timeframe to release public information about pandemic decisions ordered by the government was also drastically shortened.

The changes require 'reasonable grounds' for the premier to declare a pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

Under the older version of the bill there didn't even need to be a single case of Covid-19 in Victoria for the powers to be implemented.

The government will also be compelled to publish their public health advice before enforcing stay-at-home orders within seven days - down from two weeks.

While the maximum $90,500 fine for breaking health orders has been halved, but a heavy two year jail sentence is still part of the legislation.

Changes to the Bill also restrict the government of the day from making public health orders which differentiate between groups of people.

The new bill means the Premier and Health Minister - rather than the chief health officer - will have the power to declare a pandemic 

Prior to the amendments it may have been possible to discriminate against specific religious groups or races using public health laws. 

Health minister Martin Foley said the changes come after extensive consultations with public health and human rights leaders.

'The new pandemic laws will provide a clear framework for managing pandemics such as COVID-19 – while putting the safety of all Victorians first,' he said.

'We have engaged extensively with some of the most trusted leaders in public health, human rights and law and policy making – and the amendments reflect that consultation.'